Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 416 p.
From the Publisher
Double Giller Prize winner M.G. Vassanji's The In-Between
World of Vikram Lall is a haunting novel of
corruption and regret that brings to life the complexity and
turbulence of Kenyan society in the last five decades. Rich in
sensuous detail and historical insight, this is a powerful story of
passionate betrayals and political violence, racial tension and the
strictures of tradition, told in elegant, assured prose.
The novel begins in 1953, with eight-year-old Vikram Lall a witness
to the celebrations around the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II,
just as the Mau Mau guerilla war for independence from Britain
begins to gain strength. In a land torn apart by idealism, doubt,
political upheaval and terrible acts of violence, Vic and his
sister Deepa must find their place among a new generation. Neither
colonists nor African, neither white nor black, the Indian brother
and sister find themselves somewhere in between in their band of
playmates: Bill and Annie, British children, and Njoroge, an
African boy. These are the relationships that will shape the rest
of their lives.
We follow Vikram through the changes in East African society, the
immense promise of the fifties and sixties. But when that hope is
betrayed by the corruption and violence of the following decades,
Vic is drawn into the Kenyatta government's orbit of graft and
power-broking. Njoroge, his childhood friend, can abandon neither
the idealism of his youth nor his love for Vic's sister Deepa. But
neither the idealism of the one nor the passive cynicism of the
other can avert the tragedies that await them.
In interviews given when the novel was published, Vassanji
commented that The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
is the first of his books to deal with his memories of Kenya, where
he spent the first 5 years of his life: "I remember these images of
fear, of terror. And I thought I had to come back to that and see
the whole Mau Mau episode from the Asian point of view. I had never
written a book set in Kenya, where my father was from. And when I
did, I just felt good about it, because I was going back to one
part, one of many homes."
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, a compelling
record in the voice of a character described as "a cheat of
monstrous and reptilian cunning," took three years to write. After
research in Kenya and Britain, M.G. Vassanji devoted himself to the
novel in a dark office at the University of Toronto. It was a hard
process of creation and discovery, especially as Vassanji is an
assiduous editor of his own work: "I come back to it over and over.
For me, it's like working on a sculpture. You sort of chip away a
bit at a time until you tell yourself it's as perfect as you can
make it." Vassanji's fifth novel met with immense Canadian and
international success. As well as making him the first author to
win the Giller Prize twice, the book was a #1 national bestseller.
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
is a profound and careful examination of one man's search
for his place in the world; it also takes up themes that have run
through Vassanji's work, such as the nature of community in a
volatile society, the relations between colony and colonizer, and
the inescapable presence of the past. It is also, finally, a deeply
"The major thing that stands out in the book is people who are
in-between. The feeling of belonging and not belonging is very
central to the book. And that also played out in my life. When we
lived in Tanzania we belonged and did not belong because we had
come from Kenya. That has been a major thread in my life."
From the Hardcover edition.